“Liquid Asylum” Dark Flash Fiction by Margaret Sefton

We think you should know, dear ones, ones who have passed on, ones who live in the street, ones who have killed and molder in prison, ones who live in underground spaces—forgotten under cities until money and children and food go missing; until abandoned houses are destroyed; until libraries, parks, and public places reek of unseemliness—we will never leave you, we the representatives of who you were before you were placed on operating tables, drilled clean through your skull, hammered through your eye socket, shocked with insulin and electricity, precious memories flying, shrieking, from your skin, old personalities, pleasures, predilections lingering saddened, forlorn, in corners of the operating room.

See? The doctors and nurses and orderlies said. We don’t have to put them in cages. Look! We don’t have to put them in straitjackets. No longer the padded cell! And yet we said to you, we pointed this out dear ones: Your tongues are now so jammed in your mouths you can barely speak. They congratulate themselves while you convalesce in the infirmary. They smoke cigarettes outside behind the surgery and there is wine and beer on breaks and a cake to celebrate the next hundred-batch and sex in the janitor’s closet. And finally, families can bring their smiles to the common areas and feel relieved they are not pretending.

We the spirits of this place, the spirits that gathered when the town said we will build buildings for a keeping of those not fit to live among us, we those spirits want you to know we have been watching you and know you, and not your spirit of violence and destruction, of hate, but the spirit you can’t remember now, the one born of God, the one you believe you will recapture in order to get married again, the one you believe will help you regain the respect of your children and community, the one your mother and your father believe is waiting to break through the face you present, the one behind the blank mind and addled tongue.

For those who are dead, who lived in an even more draconian era, we saw your hands drift up uncontrollably to pat the space on your head where a drill bored through, the drill taking you with it, leaving you sensitive to light and noise, any disruption to a mellow day which means just about any sound, any sound flowing, finding its lowest point in the drain in the top of your head. And for those of you who became like power plants with nothing but current running through or for those of you whose bodies were flooded through with insulin or tranquilizing substances over and over, or those subjected to the mind-numbing pill cup, regular as communion, regular as Christ’s body, you were just as fucked. We say to all of you, both the living and the dead: We have your memories up here on a shelf. You may never get them back fully, but we keep them here and send them back in little batches like molded leaves rotting on trees, memories of leaves, veiny outlines, lace.

When you come back in your mind to us no matter where you are—the flophouse, the prison cell, the cardboard box, six feet under, the bungalow with a picket fence—we know you want the whole thing back, what you were, or, more accurately, could have been. You are with us in spirit, and we meet you in the air while you drift in your dreams. We meet you to try to help you find what you are looking for. In your mind you go back to the place where you lost yourself; you go back to your old bedlam; you come home to us, your home you never intended to consider home, and yet it was the site of your birth, a terrible birth of a broken self. Yet here we keep who you were for you, who you used to be. You will find your old self here, we promise, if only you return to make yourself whole among us again, to confront your executioners as they say. It is not as haunted as tourists say, you know that. Foolish people like to give themselves a shiver by spending a night in restraints. Idiots. We have half a mind to show them real fear, but it would be a waste, alas.

You were the real beauty and the romance. My, how we miss you, our beautiful, broken ones! Bring your old and weary bones to lie here again and let us give you back to your old self. Your memories await. So too the tears you cannot cry being too feeble to feel. We will give your young self to you whole, along with your pleasures and a deep and lasting sleep if you come to us and find your home once more in the bosom of health. It did not happen the first time—the wholeness, the health—but let us try again. Please.


Margaret Sefton has a graduate degree in storytelling but she has always been a professional liar. She may be found cooking up dark fiction and rich stews in a fortified bunker in central Florida. Some of her thoughts and tales may be found on her blog Within a Forest Dark


“A Personality Examination, Among Other Things” Flash Fiction by Ara Hone

Your leadership style bears examination because of the coup. The personality brochure distilling complex human traits into four categories rests in your hands, pretending to help, but you flip a bird. The world’s end is a damned inconvenient time to grapple with temperament. The glossy, color-coded brochure smugly insists now is always perfect for self-reflection.

Your needle pegs red. Why are controlling personalities always labeled as the color red, as though red signifies rage? You flick past those pages; your index finger wetted for better traction. The snapping echoes off the cave walls crowding close, like the traitors who gathered with cool disdain at your so-called trial.

You rip out a page and wad it. No faceless trait scientist [literally faceless by now, you’ll bet] will convince you that waiting and starving is superior in strategy to striking and running. You’re still standing. The dumb fuck who wrote this brochure likely isn’t.

D = Director: You don’t just occupy your space; you own it. Among Other Things, you are human. Your blood-under-the-nails instincts rule. You bare your teeth, grip your knife, and scream into the inkiness: Come and get me!

BUT

Your rust weeps from too many cuts and slicks your leathers. Your heart pounds as rapidly as the boots that wrestled you here. Your propensity for flashy victories [their words, not yours] comes at the expense of friends, family, and followers, and those remaining seek vengeance, indeed, not truth.

I = Influencer: [Amusing, right?] The brochure claims you’re possessed of a negotiator’s DNA, illustrated by the color blue [never your favorite]. You don’t simply pursue agreement: you alert on the tiniest advantage to your agenda.

A parlay Among Other Things was brilliant; negotiations would have established leverage for humans. But you, a self-proclaimed chameleon, utterly failed to spot the inside double-cross. The slaughter’s stink still swirls your senses.

A snarl reverberates off the cave walls. Sick gurgles in your belly. You’re about to die, but two points bear further hashing.

S = Statesperson. Point one: 99.9 percent of [remaining] humanity hides, shunning controversy like the proverbial plague, which isn’t proverbial anymore. But you? You strap on the brochure’s canary yellow and bore through conflict like debris through a black hole [which is how those motherfreaks got here] because, Among Other Things, conflict is their language, and you’re now fluent in their tongue.   

Point number two: Loyalty matters. You’re humanity’s leader [okay, were]. You accept that leaders are flashing neon targets [for dissenters to take aim] but taking an arrow from within your ranks from someone you love[d]? That’s just…wrong.

Shivers quicken your hands, the ones that cradled your boy’s body the same day the man who shared your heartbeat laid the blame of his death at your feet. You should have been wary of the shadows entering his gaze. He betrayed you at the parlay and disappeared, leaving you to explain how you’d never sell out humankind to invaders.

Blood dopps onto the brochure from the G your former followers carved into your brow.

[G for guilty.]

You crumple the entire brochure and drill it into the darkness.

Snarls unfurl a heartbeat’s distance away.

A good thing you’re a

C = Cog-nator: Go-go juices spurt into your limbs. Your breath feathers hot over your lips. You hold, hold…a force drives you back. You strike. The stink is palpable, Among Other Things. You plunge the blade down and in. The tip skips off bone, but you keep pressing. [The high-pitched squeal is yours.] Bone is an organic component comprised of collagen protein. The major minerals are calcium and phosphate. Bone is hard; it is not the brochure’s green like tree saplings. You fight.

Among Other Things, if you fight, you will survive.

It turns out, self-reflection for healing is worth the sweat.

You’ve been judged, dumped, and left for dead, but you are who you are.

You’ve made mistakes—sure. But no color-coded brochure of red, blue, yellow, or green encapsulates you.

An apocalyptic plague of aliens from the stars is self-explanatory: humans didn’t start this crap. The self-healing process lets you see that peoples’ thoughts about you don’t matter.

Only living does.

Because Among Other Things, you are unique, and you’ve done your best. You will overcome. You will rise from the pit. You will choose to forgive and, in turn, be forgiven.

Humanity needs you, so you’ll lead again.

Among Other Things, the victory will be yours, and one by one, all the things coming against you die at your feet.


Ara Hone writes speculative fiction. Before that, she climbed grain silos to admire sunsets, joined the military when it wasn’t cool, and survived a sales career. She adores a great TV series and editing stories for Flash Fiction Magazine. Her best advice? Drink coffee daily. @ara_hone


“For Laura” Dark Drabble by Gary Thomson

Laura comforts her aged mother at the front door. The auctioneer has stripped the house  of furniture and function. She is grateful her mother has retained some personal treasures: reclining chair, reading lamp, worn photo album. 

            What keepsake for me, Laura wonders, to soften memories of lonely childhood among shadowy rooms bereft of easy affection?

            “Your bed at Sunny Vale is waiting, mom. You’ll sleep easier tonight.”

            Mrs. Gibson hands Laura a foggy, creased photo. A handsome man with lowered, haunted eyes. Her father: long departed, barely remembered. 

            “Do ghosts remain at home?” her mother says. “Or will they travel too?” 


Gary Thomson lives in Ontario, where he enjoys riffing Beatles and blues on his Hohner harmonica between writing projects. His flash has appeared in Molecule, fiftywordstories [4], Fairfield Scribes, among others; and longer fiction elsewhere. 


“Son” Flash Horror by K.A. Williams

I discarded the name tag. There was only one reason I was here. I wanted to see Craig.

“Doris, is that you?”

“Yes.”

“You look well,” he lied.

“Can we talk in private?”

He reluctantly followed me into the elevator. When it stopped on the newly renovated hotel floor, Craig followed me out.  

He kicked aside a sheet of plastic and glared. “Your family moved while you were still pregnant, and you never even told me when you had the baby. What do you want from me now?”

“I’ve decided that it’s your turn to care for him. Come on out Tony, and meet your father.”

Our child appeared in the deserted hallway, his shadow dancing on the freshly painted walls. Craig gasped. It wasn’t the sunken eyes and frail body that frightened him, it was the slit in Tony’s face where a mouth should have been.

“He’s deformed,” Craig said with revulsion.

“Yes, and he’s been living off my blood since he was born. Now it’s your turn.”

A long thin tube flicked out of the slit in Tony’s face, attached itself to Craig’s wrist, and pierced the skin. Craig made a gurgling sound in his throat and slid down the wall, eyes glazed.

Now that I was free, what would I do next? Anything but return to that boring reunion.


First published in Black Petals in 2001.


K. A. Williams lives in North Carolina and writes speculative, mystery/crime, general fiction, and poetry. She has been published in many magazines including Mystery Tribune, Trembling With Fear, Theme of Absence, Altered Reality, Yellow Mama, and View From Atlantis. Apart from writing, she enjoys rock music and CYOA games.


“At the Museum of Art” and “Arriving at the Pearly Gates” Dark Flash Fiction by Karen Watts

At the Museum of Art

The top of her face is deeply lined and pasty, and the rest hidden beneath fabric. She looks old, and tired, and the crick in her spine gives her stance a defeated slouch.

The mob around her is restless and ragged. Their eyes are pale and searching, waiting, hoping, for a divine intervention, and some kind of meaning, to heal their wounds hidden and jagged.

They are the survivors of pestilence. A crowd of miserable souls, gathered to stare mindlessly at a world bathed in hellish fire and disease. They appear ready to move as one.

I move my gaze from the window pane to the Exhibition of Medieval Plague Art, and our tour group shuffles forward.

Arriving at the Pearly Gates

He’d fought the good fight. After many long years he was going to his reward. He was surrounded by his family, except for that whore of a granddaughter, and that son who could never stay clean and sober.

He’d always adhered to the right, quoting scripture for all to hear, sort of, when he could remember the words. His bible stayed in the glove compartment with his pistol, and some questionable beef jerky.

None of that mattered now, as the doctor signed on the dotted line, and the nurse shut down the machines.

There was no stately, robed saint guarding the door. A line of souls he almost remembered waited, and his chest began to burn as he saw their faces. Punches thrown to punish, spit hurled to degrade and shame, he didn’t know all their names, but he remembered their faces. Why were they here?

The woman from the clinic line, the gay guy he had fired, that bum he threw out of the church parking lot, his hippie neighbors, they sighed as one, turned and vanished in a cloud of yellow and blue light. The black and burning embers of his soul exploded, and a scream that would last for eternity began, as fiery angels feasted on his heart.


Karen Southall Watts teaches Humanities at Bellingham Technical College, and Business Soft Skills courses for Canadian College. Her flash fiction and poetry have been featured at Fairfield Scribes, Free Flash Fiction, The Drabble, 101Words, and soon at Sledgehammer Lit and Soren Lit. She is also the author of several business books and articles. Reach her at @askkaren on Twitter 


“And” Dark Flash Fiction by Grove Koger

He was an evil little boy and he did evil things. Everybody was afraid of him and nobody could stop him.

Once he brought a dead crow back to life, watched it bounce on the roadway and sweep backward on a gust of wind that only it felt, listened to it caw angrily as it vanished in the leaden sky. That should have been a good thing, bringing that bird back to life, but somehow it wasn’t. Another time he made it rain real hard on the last day of school. The picnic had to be canceled and the mother of one of his classmates died in a flash flood. She had the cancer, and her death could have been a good thing, a blessing. But it wasn’t. Another time—

But there had been a lot of other times.

Now he walked down the middle of the road, confident that any drivers from around there would know enough to steer around him. And they did. The other boys walked a few steps behind, afraid to anger him by getting too close or hanging too far back. Then he stopped, right about where that damn crow had been lying, and looked around.

“I can make all this go away,” he said.

They stopped too, looked around too. Had they heard him right? All what? All this? There were fields of stubble, shacks here and there, stands of black locust. Just those and the dusty road. It was that kind of place.

“I can make all this go away,” he said again, more thoughtfully this time, turning back to say it. It was a terrible sight, the little boy’s face screwed up in thought, and it made the others even more nervous than they were already.

He looked down at his right hand, moved his fingers this way and that, feeling his way … back. As if he were remembering something, something he had known a long time ago. But that was impossible, he hadn’t been here a long time ago. Had he?

He touched his thumb to one finger and then another, feeling his way. No, not that one. Not that one, not that one. That one.

The evil little boy grinned, and that was a terrible sight too. He set his thumb back against his middle finger—that one—and clenched them together, and—


Grove Koger is the author of When the Going Was Good: A Guide to the 99 Best Narratives of Travel, Exploration, and Adventure, Assistant Editor of Deus Loci: The Lawrence Durrell Journal, and former Assistant Editor of Art Patron.


“Traffic Light Revenge” Flash Fiction by Niles Reddick

When I left home at 5:00 a.m., I didn’t see a vehicle on the road as I meandered the neighborhood and the main road arteries to get to the bypass. A bypass, by definition, shouldn’t have traffic lights, especially ones that aren’t synchronized. To have them interrupts the flow of traffic. The glaring red light functions like a clot in the bloodstream. I did not mind stopping, being the obedient, law-abiding citizen I’ve been, but I’ll admit that I cursed several times and even flipped off the camera.

There were three other traffic lights between the first one and where I exited the bypass to get to my office, and at each one, I had to stop and wait on absolutely nothing. By the time I got to work, I got involved with finding keys to unlock the building, the office complex, and finally my own office, and forgot all about the traffic lights until the next morning when all three of the bypass lights were green and stayed green the entire trip to my office, but on Wednesday, the third work day, I encountered all red traffic lights again.

When I got to my office, I waited until the city offices were open, and I called the traffic control office and got voice mail. I decided to go to the office, share with them that one day the lights are synchronized and one day they aren’t. I figured they would appreciate my concerned citizen report, and I fantasized I might even get some sort of commendation from the Mayor. I found the office in the basement of City Hall, went in, and saw a fellow watching a control board with several monitors.

“May I help you? This office isn’t open to the public.”

“I’m sorry, but the door was open.”

“The custodian probably left it open. They don’t clean any better than they keep doors locked around here.”

“Well, I wanted to share a problem I’ve encountered with the traffic lights on the bypass.”

“You’ll have to email traffic@city.gov and report your issue there.”

“Who does that go to?”

“Well, technically, it comes to me, and if I don’t address it, I send it up to the mayor’s office and they pass to who it needs to go to.”

“I see. I’ll be glad to send an email but let me at least tell you the problem while I’m here. You see, some mornings on my way into the city via the bypass, the lights are synchronized, and I get all green ones, like Tuesday, but other days, they aren’t, and there’s no traffic. So, as you can see, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be all green.”

“What do you drive?”

“A 4-Runner?”

“White?”

“Yes, why?”

“Did you flip me off and mouth curse words on Monday to the camera?”

“Yes, I did. How do you know that? What does that matter?”

“It matters. I saw you as I was refilling my coffee.”

“Well, I realize I shouldn’t have probably done that, but I didn’t know anyone was watching.”

“I’m off on Tuesday, so I wasn’t watching yesterday.”

“They were all green yesterday!”

“Yes, I know they were. They’ve never filled the part time position in this office, so when I’m off, no one is monitoring the lights.”

“This is crazy.”

“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to step in here.”

“I’m not stepping in there. I need to get back to work, but when I do, I’m going to report you to the Mayor and the police. I think you’re crazy.”

“I’m sorry. I’ll have to ask you to step in here, again.” He pulled a gun from his pants’ pocket, aimed it at the visitor’s head.

“Why? Put that gun down. You have no idea who you are dealing with.”

“I’m sorry it has come to this, but you have too much information. Honestly, you won’t feel a thing when you step into this closet. I’ll shoot you, and then, you’ll fall into a drain that will take you directly to the sewer. The rats will take care of all the evidence.”

“What about my car outside? They’ll know I was here.”

“No, they won’t. Your car will be towed, and they don’t keep records. You’ll also get a ticket in the mail for running the first light on the bypass, but your wife will come in to pay it, and I may ask her out once a little time has passed. I’ve seen her in the Infiniti convertible, putting on lipstick, flashing her teeth, and checking her eye make-up. She’s pretty.”

“Please, I’m begging you. Don’t point that gun at me. This is nuts.”

The gun went off, and the traffic controller said, “That’ll teach you.” After the splash in the sewer, the traffic controller went back to his cameras and said to the convertible Infiniti at the first light on the bypass. “Well, hello there. See you in a couple of weeks.”


Niles Reddick is author of a novel Drifting too far from the Shore, two collections Reading the Coffee Grounds and Road Kill Art and Other Oddities, and a novella Lead Me Home. His work has been featured in seventeen anthologies, twenty-one countries, and in over three hundred publications including The Saturday Evening Post, PIFNew Reader MagazineForth Magazine, Citron Review, and The Boston Literary Magazine.